What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? These are the questions that bestselling author Madeleine L’Engle sets out to answer in Walking on Water. Through stories from her own life, and quotes from philosophers, theologians, and other writers, she addresses the concept of Christian art.
I read through this book with lots of both encouragement and disappointment. I found that while I strongly agreed with L’Engle in terms of theology, there were many points where I questioned her thoughts on how faith relates to art.
What you will quickly realize is L’Engle doesn’t like the label “Christian art.” Her claim is that God can work through even an atheist artist to convey a message. While I believe this is true (God can use whomever He chooses), I don’t think it’s a good reason to shun the label.
L’Engle also uses the argument that all good art is Christian art (or at the very least religious) in the sense that we create it. But I disagree with this argument as well, because what constitutes “good” art is subjective at best. If art is Christian based on how it makes a person feel, or what they “get out of it”, then what does that say about Christianity in and of itself?
I would have closed the book at several points early on had L’Engle not shared her own views of Christian theology. She discusses justification by faith, unmerited grace, the fact that we bring nothing to our salvation, and much more. There is no doubt that L’Engle is a Christian, and yet, the way she connects faith to art, at times, seems to be more new-age, or mystical.
She skates around the issue of defining Christian art with stories and examples, but I believe her truest statement on the subject comes halfway though the book. When asked by a student how she should go about becoming a Christian writer, L’Engle told her:
… if she is truly and deeply a Christian, what she writes is going to be Christian, whether she mentions Jesus or not. And if she is not, in the most profound sense, Christian, then what she writes is not going to be Christian, no matter how many times she invokes the name of the Lord.
This is what I believe she is trying to say through the entire book, but it somehow gets muddled in the details.
1) Is it understandable = 4.5
2) Presentation of Information = 3.5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 3
Average score of 4 out of 5
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.